Tuesday, December 23, 2014

five things for illustrators - a.k.a. five things that helped me and will hopefully help you too

I thought I'd share five things that helped me to push my art to the next level, and will hopefully help you too:

1. Take writing classes/workshops/conference sessions. Think of the characters you draw in the same way that writers are taught to think about the characters they write. What are your characters strengths, weaknesses, wants, friends, enemies, favorite things, emotional reactions, family, etc.? Use those things (a.k.a. who your character is) when you  draw your story (how your character looks, where they live, and who they interact with).

2. Read current books like the ones you want to illustrate (PBs, MGs, etc.). Pay attention to which illustrators you love/hate. Try to figure out why you love/hate them, and how you can make your work stand out like they do (by being inspired by them, but not copying them).

For instance, if you love the emotion and facial expressions someone does, look at your own characters. Do they show enough emotion? If not, how can you amp that up in your work?

Another example: if you like the character design, what makes an illustrator's character design stand out to you? Is it the shapes? Hard/soft edges? Exaggerated features? Compare what you like about their character design to what you're doing. Can you push your art further to make your character design stand out in a similar or opposite way?

Read the words and see how the illustrator translated that into the art. How would you do it? The same? Different? Then look at your art and think about the story you're trying to tell. Do you mirror the words? Extend the story? What would make it even better? If you can't think of anything, consider asking for help from an illustrator friend, critique group, or a critique at a conference.

One artist I've looked at over the years is Tuesday Mourning (and not just because of her name, though I do like it). Her drawings of Princess Peepers by Pam Calvert were really interesting to me. I loved her art when she was only illustrating novels, and then loved her picture book art too! I was inspired seeing the similarities/differences in her art for different age groups. It was also fun and informative to see how she extended Pam's story in her drawings. (You can learn a lot by studying how another illustrator chooses to picture a story, and thinking about how you'd do it differently, or if you would keep their art and wouldn't change a thing.)

3. What area of your art do you need to work on? (If you're not sure, what do critiquers say you need to work on?) Design a project that helps you to achieve that goal.

One thing I did that helped immensely: I worked to figure out what publishers wanted, what I was good at, and what made good picture book art (because picture book art is different than other types of illustration and fine art). I also made my own art projects, including one that ended up taking two years (I drew and/or painted a cow a day for a year, then dog a day for a second year). I did that to help hone my skills after coming from an abstract art background. I needed to do it to start thinking about illustration rather than fine art paintings. It still took several years after that before I got a book deal, but if I hadn't taken the time to grow my art, I'm pretty sure I still wouldn't have a book deal.

4. Take time for personal art that you make just for fun (could be five minutes a day, a week long painting, or a craft project - whatever is fun for you). Every time I do this, from the daily drawing projects to painting, crafts, etc. my art has grown in leaps and bounds, and I've gotten ideas and inspiration for stories and portfolio art. One of my goals for next year is to try to squeeze in more time for personal art.

5. Have a website or blog, or somewhere online where a publisher can find your art. If they can't find you, they can't contact you about a project that could be right for you.

If you're interested in becoming a picture book illustrator and/or writer, here are some of my past posts that might help:

The Path Illustrators Take To Get Their Work Noticed And Advance Their Careers

The Importance Of Making Art For Fun

Three Ways To Make A Picture Book Dummy 

Ten Tips For Choosing What To Draw For Your Portfolio, And Ten Ways To Find Inspiration

How To Write A Picture Book In Twelve Easy Steps  

If You Just Want To Illustrate And Not Write  

Friday, December 12, 2014

I see sea birds riding the waves

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is sea. I see sea birds riding the waves ... no wait, that's a chicken, some ducks, and a few angry foxes (from my new online portfolio)!

In other news, my first picture book, EWE AND AYE, is out in the world. WooHoo! My launch party at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, MN, went well, and there was even a cake with the book cover on it! (Note: there are signed books available at Red Balloon.)

If you would like a personalized copy of EWE AND AYE, I'll be signing at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, DE, this Sunday, December 14 at noon. (133 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971) If you're in the area, please stop by! If you're not in the area, you can still order a personalized book from Browseabout's website, or by calling them at (302) 226-2665. There probably won't be cake this time, but there will be prizes! Hope to see you there.

Friday, December 5, 2014

light for illustration Friday, book launch party, and ABFFE auction

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is light. Can't resist posting this image of a deep sea lantern fish that I drew for Ripple back in 2010.

Might have to do some more art in this style in the future, though probably not in colored pencil (I love colored pencil, but can't imagine using it for a long project like a picture book).

Two Reminders of events this week:

1.  The ABFFE auction is going on right now (until Dec. 8). You can get awesome art from children's book illustrators to put on your walls. I'm not just saying that because I have two prints in the auction - there are a lot of other illustrators in the auction. Check it out here. If you want to bid on my art, here are the links for my two prints:

Bid on a print from my upcoming picture book, EWE AND AYE, here.

You can bid on the Diverse Books Theater print here.
(Drawn in honor of We Need Diverse Books.)

ABFFE stands for American Booksellers For Free Expression. They work to, "promote and protect the free exchange of ideas, particularly those contained in books." For more information, visit ABFFE's site.  

2. If you're going to be in the Twin Cities on Sunday afternoon, I'm having a book launch for the new picture book I illustrated, EWE AND AYE, written by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble (me!). It's at Red Balloon Bookshop 891 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105. 651-224-8320 / 888-651-8320

The deep sea lantern fish and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

new website, wobble for IF, ABFFE auction, and Giving Tues.

I have a spiffy new website! With a new header, new art, and a preview of art from my upcoming picture book, EWE AND AYE. Check it out here:

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week, is wobble. Ewe is wobbly going downhill on her unicycle! And Aye is a bit wobbly running uphill while flapping his wings! (This image is from my upcoming picture book, EWE AND AYE, written by Candace Ryan, illustrated by Stephanie Ruble - Disney*Hyperion Dec. 9, 2014.)

Here's another image from my upcoming book. You can even get a print of this image, because it's in the ABFFE auction, going on right now (until Dec. 8). Bid on this EWE AND AYE print here.

There's art from other children's book illustrators in the auction too - lot's of great art! ABFFE stands for American Booksellers For Free Expression. They work to, "promote and protect the free exchange of ideas, particularly those contained in books." For more information, visit ABFFE's site

I actually have two prints in the ABFFE auction this time. The other one is Diverse Books Theater (shown above), which I drew in honor of We Need Diverse Books. You can bid on the Diverse Books Theater print here.

Speaking of We Need Diverse Books, their indiegogo campaign is still going strong, and they are part of #GivingTuesday (the global day of giving). Please consider contributing to the We Need Diverse Books indiegogo campaign if you are able to.

Happy December everyone!
(I can't believe it's already December. How did the year fly by so fast?)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! (Eat Pizza!)

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving filled with good food, people you love, and things to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In two weeks, Ewe And Aye will fly into bookstores!

Two weeks from today is the book launch party for EWE AND AYE! I can't believe it's only two weeks away, after years of working on the art and waiting for the book to come out. It's the first picture book I've illustrated, so maybe that's why it seemed to take forever to get here. Firsts always seem to take so loooooooong to arrive: the first day of school, the first book that you could read all by yourself, the first time you could drive by yourself without anyone else in the car, well you get the idea.

First things are always very exciting, and a little terrifying too. The scenarios you imagine for something new are always on the extreme ends of what could happen (or maybe that's just me). Not only is this my first book, it's also my first book launch. (Makes sense, right?) I'm a little worried that nobody will come, or that EVERYONE will come and they won't fit in the store ... or they will fit in the store, but they will be expecting ME to entertain them. I hope the three people (or three hundred?) who show up won't be disappointed in the book launch. At least my launch party has three really great things going for it:

There will be cake!
(Everyone loves cake, or at least most people do, right?)

There will be prizes!
(Good prizes - you would like them - you should totally come to the launch party and try to win prizes.)

There will be books!
(Who doesn't like books? Seriously. Who doesn't like books? I bet they would like this book. It has lots of pictures (drawn by me)!

When and where will my book launch be? I'm glad you asked! (Okay, YOU didn't really ask, but if you've read this far, you probably wanted to know, right?)

What: Book Launch Party for EWE AND AYE written by Candace Ryan and illustrated by Stephanie Ruble (Published by Disney*Hyperion - ISBN: 978-142317591-9)

Where: Red Balloon Bookshop 891 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

When: Sunday December 7, 2014 at 3pm

Personalized Books: Order online or by phone at 651-224-8320 / 888-651-8320 (The book officially releases on Dec. 9, so if you're going to the party and want to make sure you get a book, or if you can"t come to the party and want me to sign a book for you, pre-order by Tues, Nov. 25).

No Purchase Necessary: You don't have to buy a book to come to the party, but if you do buy a book, I'd be happy to sign it for you.

I bet you're wondering what the book looks like, aren't you? Here's the cover:

 Wondering what people are saying about the book? It's been reviewed by three places so far:

Kirkus: "Ryan’s punning is nicely expanded in Ruble’s zippy illustrations. ... Lots of fun." 

Publisher's Weekly: "But the real attraction is debut illustrator Ruble—she brings an exuberant energy to each scene ..."

School Library Journal: "The goggle-wearing animals in their heart-soled sneakers are expressive and charming. ... The wordplay is clever, and the art is sweet ..."

So, if you happen to be in the Twin Cities area and want to go to a book launch party on Dec. 7 at Red Balloon Bookshop, it would be great to see you!

* Disclaimer: This post was written on about three hours of sleep, so if it's too silly or weird, that's why! If, on the other hand, you think this post is brilliant, it's because I'm creative. No seriously, I am! Did you see that I illustrated a book? No? Huh, you must have just scrolled down to the bottom of the post. Well, let me tell you about it. The book is called, EWE AND AYE. It was written by Candace Ryan and illustrated by Stephanie Ruble (that's me)!

Come to my book launch party!

It will be fun!

There will be prizes! And Cake! And books! You like books, don't you?

Oops, I said I was going to stop, didn't I? I'll stop now.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Diverse Books Theater

Update 11/25: There will be a print of the Diverse Books Theater piece in the ABFFE holiday auction Dec. 1-8. ABFFE stands for American Booksellers For Free Expression. They work to, promote and protect the free exchange of ideas, particularly those contained in books." For more information, visit ABFFE's site.

The prompt this week for  Illustration Friday is, "theatre", and the line that kept going through my head was, "All the world's a stage ... " It may originally be from Shakespeare, but it was the Rush song, Limelight, that looped over and over this week.

I was also thinking about the We Need Diverse Books Campaign* this week.

Those two ideas came together and became the Diverse Books Theater:

The original is quite large, so it's not easy to see everyone on stage (close-ups below). There are pairs of readers. Each one is holding a book that's the same as another person's book (kid on the floor goes with kid walking off stage - the book is tucked into the backpack). I tried to represent as diverse a cast of characters as possible to show that you never know who is going to like the same books you do. Books should represent all types of readers, reflecting our diverse world and diverse people who read those books.

* If you work with children's books (author, illustrator, publisher, agent, bookseller, librarian, teacher, etc.) you've probably heard of We Need Diverse Books. If you haven't heard of it, here's more info:

We Need Diverse Books is a nonprofit that aims to bring more diversity into books and publishing so that readers can see themselves in books, and will also have books that reflect our wonderfully diverse world. It's easier to have empathy and understanding of people who are different if we meet them in a book and see the world through their eyes. Children especially need to see themselves reflected in books, and meet other types children as well.

We Need Diverse Books is currently having an indigogo campaign (through Dec. 10) to help them with their mission of supporting current diverse books and getting them into the hands of kids, current and future diverse authors and illustrators, and diversity in publishing too. The campaign has all sorts of great perks to go with your pledge, or you can choose to forgo the perk and have your complete donation go to the campaign.

We Need Diverse Books has partnered with many children's book organizations to help support diversity in children's books, including: 

Please consider donating if you are able to!
We Need Diverse Books Indidgogo Campaign: link to donate here.  

Want to know more about We Need Diverse Books? Here are some links:

We Need Diverse Books website
(includes mission statement and recommended reading lists)

We Need Diverse Books on tumblr 
(inspiring and thoughtful posts as well as updates and reading lists)

We Need Diverse Books on Twitter

It's hard to see details on the whole picture above, so I thought I'd post three crops to better show the characters:

I can't decide if these two are shocked because of what they're reading, or if they are listening to something shocking (they're sharing headphones, so they're tuned in to the same thing). They like to read while they're waiting to play ... not sure what sport. I'm thinking basketball or volleyball. I've seen a few articles lately about artificial hands made from 3D printers. That's where the inspiration for the girl's colorful hand came from.

I imagine these two girls haven't seen each other in a while, so are happy to meet again, and surprised that they're reading the same book at the same time. The other character matches up to the one leaving the stage above.

I think these two characters just met and are discovering they have the same taste in books. I'm sensing there's a book club in their future. BTW, I've been seeing lots of people with hair like this guy lately ... also, it reminded me of drawing a chicken (I draw lots of chickens).

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

paper for illustration friday - newspaper

Couldn't resist drawing a newspaper for the Illustration Friday prompt this week, which is paper. Had to create a fun headline and lead story, as well as another story below it.

Alligators always get such a bad rap for sharp teeth and eating small animals, so I wondered what would happen if people ran into an alligator who likes to tell jokes. Alice the alligator is hilarious!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

girl flying with ghosts

Technically Halloween is over, but I couldn't resist posting this pencil drawing I did this summer* of a girl with her ghost friends:

I didn't have a set plan when I started this drawing. I just knew I wanted to have a bunch of ghosts flying around. Then this girl showed up and decided she wanted to fly with the ghosts, which I thought was a great idea.

Did you ever want to fly? (Flying seems like it would be a fun thing to do.)

Would you fly with ghosts if you had the chance? (I would, if they were friendly ghosts! Then again, even if they weren't friendly and they wanted me to fly with them, I probably would - probably wouldn't have a choice).

I like lots of holidays, but Halloween is my favorite. (There are so many fun things to draw, plus there's candy, plus my birthday is two days later, so it's practically a Halloween birthday!)

What's your favorite holiday? Why do you like it?

*It's Halloween all year round for me (or at least it is for story and art ideas)!

Friday, October 31, 2014

ghosts, cats, chickens and bats!

This is officially the last #inktober blog, because tomorrow is November. (And today is Halloween - Happy Halloween!) I had fun inking it up this month. Here are the last three drawings. I think this first one of the witch cat is my favorite for the whole month. I might even have to scan it! (As opposed to the inktober cell phone pictures that I used all month.)

If this cat looks familiar, it could be because she was on my illustration postcard earlier this year. I actually did the first sketches of her almost exactly year ago! Here's a crop of the image so you can see her riding the dog:

The next ink image begs the question: Are chickens afraid of ghosts? (Yes.) Or maybe it's the answer to the age old question: Why did the chicken cross the road? (She was running from the ghost.) Or it could be another question that I haven't thought of yet ... the question is probably: When are you going to scan this picture so it doesn't have weird shadows? However, the weird shadows do add a certain charm and scary atmosphere to the picture (IMO). Maybe I should keep them.

And finally, as long as I was on a ghost kick and listening to music, I drew this musical ghost who is auditioning for a show on Ghost TV called, Ghost Idol. I know, it's a very original name. Ghosts are like that, always borrowing ideas from the living and barely changing them! I imagine this ghost is about to get cut from the show, because those notes don't seem to make a song. Then again, ghost music is probably way different from living music. Maybe the ghost is a smooth singer and will actually win the contest! Go ghost go! Incidentally, "smooth," is the prompt for Illustration Friday this week. Can't think of any better way to show smooth + Halloween than a smooth singing ghost.

It was a good drawing exercise, to participate in #inktober this month, and fun too! If I hadn't been traveling so much, I probably would have broken out the pen and ink, and the scanner. Maybe next month! Then again, next month will probably bring a burst of non-ink creativity. Will just have to wait and see what happens (and have art supplies at the ready).

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.   

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

puppets, pumpkins, boo, and bats

This week I drew five images over seven days for #inktober and Illustration Friday. This first image is my Frankenstein cow making a Halloween appearance with a pumpkin, ghost, and owl. Still trying to find the right look for him. This look is close to the original sketches I did a long time ago:

I actually did this pumpkin for the first image this week, but it's second on the list (Frankenstein cow wanted to go first). You can't see it from this small picture, but there are images of ghosts, bats, witches, and cats inside the pumpkin stem and the pumpkin face.

The prompt for Illustration Friday this week is puppet. I couldn't resist drawing a trick-or-treating dog being given candy treats by a chicken (all orchestrated by the puppet master girl, of course).

I wanted to do a word image, and this is what happened. No idea why there are spiders with the ghosts, but it was fun to do and I like how it turned out.

I unearthed an old pencil sketch with bats this week, and decided it looked like a face, so I inked it and added a moon in the middle for the nose. This was a small part of a larger sketch. The rest of it is pretty bad, but I like the bat face and wanted to save that part. 

This is the last week of #inktober! Only one more post (Friday) with Halloweenie ink drawings. Not sure yet what November will bring. Stay tuned!

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.   

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

jellyfish, ghosts, mummies and more!

This week I decided to add some color for #inktober (and for Illustration Friday too). There are only five images this week (the first image has three stages for three days).

The first image is: Jellies and Ghosts! I saw a picture of a jellyfish that reminded me of the shape of a ghost, so I couldn't resist making this image of the jellies and their ghostly friends (and a rare jelly-ghost too).

Here are the three stages for Jellies and Ghosts (I like them all, but I think the second stage is my favorite):

After that, I went back to more familiar territory. (COWS!) This particular cow is not a-moo-sed by the human's choice of Halloween costumes. Not a-MOO-sed, get it? Gotta love moo humor! (Or at least I do.) This is also my image for the Illustration Friday prompt, "Trouble," because I have a feeling that the moment right after this one is when the little kid gets into big trouble for the mummy costume (and runs to her mummy)!

 I was trying to think about what to do next when I remembered a batwing pumpkin I got about a month ago. I'd never heard of a batwing pumpkin before, though I think I've seen one. Here is the batwing pumpkin counting down to Halloween.

And here is my bat vs. a batwing pumpkin drawing:

Since I was on a pumpkin kick and I had been reading one of my favorite picture books, the next drawing is an homage to ORANGE PEAR APPLE BEAR by Emily Gravett. I call it Orange (pumpkin), Pear (shaped cat), Apple, (ghost) Bear:

The final image of the week is a cat-bat chasing a ghostly mouse, but I'm keeping that one to myself because it didn't turn out at all (some art is like that).

There might be more multi-day drawings next week, and maybe even color too! Stay tuned ...

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

cows and ghosts and elephants, oh my!

I planned a whole different set of art this week for #inktober ... but the art had other ideas. I showed my dad the art.
Dad: "Wow! These are really great!"
Me: "I think what you meant to say, was weird."
Dad: "No, I really think they're great. Maybe a little weird, but I like them!"
So, here are the seven #inktober pictures I did this week, including on for Illustration Friday. They're a little weird, but I like them. I hope you do too!

October 8: No idea what happened. This picture WAS supposed to have a cow and elephant, but no clue where the flowers came from, or why they happened. Then I added a ghost in the middle, just because.

October 9: This drawing set the tone and subject matter for all the rest of the art this week (and is also a nod to Tim Conway on The Carol Burnett Show).

October 10: I had the idea that the ghost could transform into things and the cow and elephant would wear Halloween costumes, and they'd all say or give a clue to what they're supposed to be.

 October 11: Clearly there are no costumes in this picture. I blame the spider.

October 12: This is where things start to go off the rails. I blame the elephant (and Illustration Friday - the theme this week is octopus). Originally the cow was an owl and said, "Who!" but the owl costume looked awful, so I made her wear an eye, in a nod to the book I have coming out in December (EWE AND AYE).

October 13: Now the elephant is just being silly.

October 14: And finally, the ghost and cow are once again dressed up for Halloween, but the elephant is not. (He's too distracted by the pumpkin pie, which he will probably share. Probably.)

So that was my crazy #inktober week! What are your characters (that you're writing or drawing) doing this week? Did you know they were going to do those things? Or was it a total surprise like my ghost, cow, and elephant?

I wonder what surprises the drawings for next week will bring? I guess I'll find out ... stay tuned!

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

pups in usual and unusual Halloween costumes

More #inktober art! I've been having fun with putting puppies in Halloween costumes (some more unusual than others). On Sunday, the Pointer decided he wanted to point at things on Halloween. The cat provided a counter point.

On Monday, three puppies were dressed up like bugs, and the pumpkin was carved to look like a pup!

I couldn't resist adding some color to this one! Probably won't do that again this month, or at least not much - it's inktober, not watercolor-tober ... maybe next month.

Though I do like the way the color turned out, especially considering I was using a travel watercolor set and the not so great brush that came with it.

Last but not least for this series. On Tuesday, it was a battle between the Pie Rat and the Pirate! (I think maybe someone misunderstood what the costume theme was.)

Next time you might see a new animal or two. I'm thinking of inking some new characters wearing Halloween costumes!

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

puppies, bats, pumpkins and cats, with a witch and mouse under a full moon too!

Two new drawings  (for #inktober and Illustration Friday)! The drawing from Friday, October 3rd features flapping bats. Poor puppy! He doesn't know the bats don't want to scare him; they just want to play.

The next drawing, from Saturday, October 4th, features a puppy in a pumpkin patch. There's lots to look at: a full moon (with a cat and a witch), bats, boats with dogs, and a mouse eating pumpkin pie!

Here's a detail of the two dogs in a boat:

The dog in the back looks like he's wearing a hat (he's not - just a slip of the pen). The puppy in front looks like a rabbit, according to my dad (she's not a rabbit - just a dog with long ears). Pretty good for inking a tiny boat (about 1" square) full of dogs at 2am! Next time I should use a magnifying glass. First I need to get a magnifying glass. ;)

My two latest drawings + weekly theme for IF (silence) inspired the lines below ... either that, or I've been thinking about horror films way too much (but it is October, so that's understandable, right?):
There's silence in the dead of night, when creatures creep and crawl, and flap and fly.
Then again, maybe I'm finally going to write a Halloween themed picture book! *crosses fingers*

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

wishing for Halloween and pumpkin pie

Lots of wishes in this picture: the puppy is wishing that the pumpkin would magically turn into a pie, the ghost is wishing it was Halloween already, the cat is wishing the ghost wasn't real, and the bird is wishing that the cat, dog and ghost would go away already! The pumpkin isn't wishing for anything, because it's a pumpkin. (For #inktober and Illustration Friday).

I decided to participate in #inktober this year! Are you participating in #inktober?

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

one dog, four ducks, and a pumpkin

Old English Sheep Dog wishes he were friends with the ducks (for #inktober and Illustration Friday).

Want to see my other inktober images? Click here to check them out.  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

how to write a picture book in twelve easy steps

Want to write a picture book, but don't know where to start? You're in luck! Follow these twelve easy steps* and you'll have a picture book at the end.

1. Read a ton of newly published picture books (published in the last 12-18 months). 

Books that were published before that may not reflect what publishers are looking for now, and books that just came out were probably purchased 1-3 years ago, or even before that. Picture books have a looooooooong lead time.

2. Think about whether the story you're telling fits within the age group, subject matter, language, format, and word count (usually 500 or fewer words) of current picture books.
Many picture books these days are shorter and aimed at a younger audience than picture books in the past. That said, since they are meant to be read to a child, they don't have to use simple words for a child trying to read on their own for the first time.

3. When you go back to your story, remember that the art will tell half (or more) of the story. 

One of the great things about picture books is that the child can read the story in the illustrations, even if they can't yet read the text. When writing a picture book, remember to leave room for the illustrator to tell the child their version of the story.

4. Don't forget that picture book text describes the action of the story, but not the visual details (leave those to the illustrator).

5. Start with a blank page after steps 1-4 (even if you already have a draft written), and write the book as an outline, or just the bones of your story.
When you write your first draft, don't be afraid to take as many words as you need to get your story down on the page. Picture books may end up short and concise, but they rarely, if ever, start there. Revision is where the story usually starts to shine.

6. Take each action in the outline and write that as a line in your book (don't add any more at this point).

7. Put it away for a day/week/however long you can stand not writing it.
Write something else while you're waiting, and complete step 8 too.

8. Read more current picture books, with special attention to how the words and pictures work together in the book. What words are left out to leave room for the art? What story does the art tell and how does it enhance or expand the story in the text?
Think about your story compared to the ones you just read. Have you left room for the art? Does your story fit into a picture book (subject, word count, language, format, age group)? If not, maybe you're writing a different type of story (easy reader, chapter book, etc.).

9. Pull your ms out and re-read, then revise while thinking about the text and how it will work with potential art. Read your story out loud. It will help you to hear where the words don't flow and help you weed out unnecessary or added words.

10. Repeat steps 1-9 as needed.

11. When you are ready, think about getting a critique! 

If you don't already have a critique group/partner, here are some options: the SCBWI has critique exchange on their discussion board, you could take a picture book writing class, or attend a conference that offers critiques.

Notes on critiques: Critiques are great when they are helpful, but you don't have to make every change suggested. Revise the story when the comments reflect your vision (as opposed to the story the other person would write). When multiple people comment on the same thing, it's an issue you should consider changing, but you don't have to change it the way they suggested (or at all). It's your story! Maybe you have a more creative solution to change the problem and make the story better. One last thing: sometimes there are spots in a story that critiquers say aren't working, but the problem is in another part of the manuscript. If several people comment on an element that you think needs to stay in your story, look to see if you can make that moment necessary by laying the groundwork for it earlier. Or repeat step 7 and put it away for a while. When you come back to it, maybe you'll realize it needs to be cut, or your subconscious will have come up with a new solution that makes sense for your story and makes it better.

12. Revise and repeat as needed.

Good luck writing your picture book!

* The steps are easy, but the execution of them is not. There is no magic bullet that will allow you to write a publishable picture book quickly***. It may take many years of repeating these steps before you have a picture book manuscript that is polished and ready to send to publishers. In that time, you'll learn and grow as a picture book writer, and the market will also grow and change, which is why it's important to keep repeating these steps, especially #1 and #8 (read current picture books).

** As with any advice, use it if it works for you, if not, don't. Everyone has their own process. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)

*** There's always news of someone quickly dashing off a book that ends up getting a publishing deal. This person is probably one of 3 types: A. a celebrity, B. lucky as all get out, or C. a writer who has been writing for a long time, and what sounds like an overnight success, was really hard work followed by being in the right place at the right time. Most will fall into category C, whether you know it, or not.

**** Note: I've updated to add a couple of things I forgot. Just like a picture book text, this post is better after multiple revisions!

If you're interested in becoming a picture book illustrator and/or writer, here are some of my past posts that might help:

The Path Illustrators Take To Get Their Work Noticed And Advance Their Careers

Five Tips For Illustrators  

The Importance Of Making Art For Fun

Three Ways To Make A Picture Book Dummy 

Ten Tips For Choosing What To Draw For Your Portfolio, And Ten Ways To Find Inspiration

If You Just Want To Illustrate And Not Write